The End is taking shape - Alpha was delivered last week and for the first time we're beginning to see all the game elements (Platformer, Death Cards and Thinker profile) as one complete experience - it's looking real nice.
We've also been busy telling people about it - I showed some screenshots at Winter World of Love, Paul talked about it in a recent Observer article and Edge kindly covered it in their recent feature on new game studios. It's seems to be going down really well and as a result lots of people have been asking to play it. To buy some time until the private Beta release I thought I'd post some of the game art we've lovingly crafting over the past few months.
The chosen one
The mighty Luke Pearson won the paid pitch to do the game art in mid 2010. We don't often pitch this type of work out but we wanted to see a range of interpretations of our concept.
The brief was simple - draw a strange world that could use our shadow / light mechanic and visualize one of the world's Guardians. Luke has a wonderfully observant (comic) brain which suited our project vision perfectly ("it's about death BUT not deathly"). The fact he drew a fluffy guardian with a hand-bag also kind of blew our minds!
The Avatar Evolution
Whilst the game design and the content has evolved loads, the game art has remained relatively constant. Small things have changed but the basic vision of a 'surreal, dreamlike space with earthly familiarity' is still in there.
Avatars were one the toughest thing to get right. Pitching them old enough for our audience but remaining 'on-style' has been a challenge. The added complexity is that our avatar exists in two sizes: large (and detailed) outside of the world, and small (and animated) inside.
(The original avatars - Lovely but too cute / nostalgic)
(In-development - Heads shrunk, stranger outfits)
(Final avatar style - Mock-ups of large and in-game versions)
There are 3 worlds constructed from large backgrounds and tileable mid and foreground elements. They create a diverse range of familiar platformish zones, including caves, gem mines, tree platforms, stone temples, catacombs. All your favourites!
Each of the three worlds represent a distinct philosophical strand which we're currently calling the 'Body', 'Mind' and 'Ethereal' worlds. They act as broad notional categories which allow us to organise big concepts, beliefs or lesser held views neatly across levels. These concepts are embedded into the levels via hieroglyphs, related puzzles and the important end-of-level question - the result will hopefully be a world which has both 'platformer' integrity and intellectual depth.
Below are some mock-ups of the Body, Mind and Ethereal worlds, using Luke's artwork:
Death Objects & Guardians
Each level's death concept is represented by a collectible 'Death Object', protected by the world's Guardian. To win the object all the player has to do is beat the Guardian in a game of 'Death Cards'. Based on an untuned difficulty curve this is currently impossible - but we're working on it!
Below is a sneak peak of a few Death Objects and the alarmingly non-chalant Mind Guradian, complete with Y-Fronts and herbal tea.
We'll be updating the our Flickr stream in parallel to future posts so make sure you've added us a contact. The private Beta will be released in the next couple of months. We're not totally sure how we're going to run it yet, but if you want to join the list leave us a comment, or email 'theendbeta[at]preloaded[dot]com'.